Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sneak Peek Week! Part 3 - Donna

My turn! My turn!

My YA novel, Multiple Choice, follows three best friends as they navigate their junior year of high school. Together, Maddy, Nina, and June face the everyday quirks of life, including ...

embarrassing jobs (would you wear a tooth mask for minimum wage?)
turkey-free Thanksgivings
cultural identity crises (half-Cuban, half-Polish--all kinds of confused)
jackass ex-boyfriends
snobby half-sisters (who date jackass ex-boyfriends)
top-secret makeout sessions
the unholy trigonometry exam (as if life wasn't complicated enough without SOH-CAH-TOA).

Chapters alternate focus among the girls as their individual storylines develop and intertwine, so I chose to give a sneak peek of the first page, since I feel it gives the best introduction of the girls' dynamic and their friendship.

(I'm going to pretend I'm not terrified of posting this for the world to see.)


Chapter 1: Failing Tests

It’s just a little pink box, Maddy Ferguson thought, trying to calm the twist of her stomach as she opened the front door to her house. Covered by a Walgreens circular, triple-wrapped in plastic bags, and shoved in the very bottom of her gigantic purse, the pregnancy test box made her feel like a terrorist sneaking a bomb through an airport. She glanced at her reflection in the entranceway mirror. Did her face look flushed? Did she breathe too quickly? Everything about her said one thing: guilty.

She motioned behind her, encouraging her best friends, June and Nina, to follow. Her mom was in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher.

“Is that you, Maddy?”

“No mom, it’s your other daughter,” Maddy said, like she did every other time her mother asked that question. Except this time her voice wavered and cracked like a boy going through puberty. Hello, obvious.

“Hey Ms. Ferguson,” Nina said, loud and clear. Maddy shot her a grateful look.

“Thank you for having us over tonight,” June added.

“Oh, no problem,” Maddy’s mom said, peeking her head around the kitchen doorway.

Maddy clutched her purse tighter, and her heart skipped a beat. When she was little, her mom told her that all mothers have x-ray vision, in addition to the extra pair of eyes hidden beneath their hair. A part of Maddy still believed her.

“We’re doing mud masks,” June said, pulling a packet out of her plastic bag.

“That’s nice,” Maddy’s mom said. “Just make sure you clean up.” She went back to the open dishwasher.

Maddy exhaled and continued up the stairs to the bathroom. The cramped space barely fit one person, and Maddy’s arsenal of products used to tame her wild, curly hair already covered every available surface. The last one in, June squeezed the door shut behind them and turned the lock on the knob. Maddy balanced her purse on the edge of the sink and dug the pregnancy test box from its wrappings. All three girls stared at it.

“So do you think we should actually give ourselves facials so your mom doesn’t get suspicious?” asked June. She wedged herself past the others and inspected her flawless olive skin in the mirror. “I mean, my pores definitely don’t look cleansed.”

“Good call,” said Maddy. June always looked out for her with her mom issues. She tiptoed over June’s head to squint at a pimple on her forehead.

June fished in her plastic bag and grabbed the individual packets of Dead Sea Mud. “It says these things take fifteen minutes to work.” She paused. “We should put them on now so that they harden while Maddy takes the test. Saves time.”

Maddy rolled her eyes at June’s hyper-productive multi-tasking instinct, which enabled her join a ridiculous number of school clubs. “I’m in no rush, trust me.”

Nina grabbed a packet and ripped it open. “I guarantee you’re not pregnant, but you gotta get this over with.” She handed it to Maddy. “Let’s put the masks on, and then you can start chugging water.”

Maddy spread the purple mud over her face with painstaking care. She used every last bit and left no part of her skin uncovered. Her friends waited silently, allowing her an extra minute of procrastination. Nina had applied her mask haphazardly, missing some areas and leaving thick glops of mud on others. June had finished in half the time it took Maddy, but her mask looked spa-professional. If Maddy’s stomach hadn’t been twisted in knots, she would’ve smiled at how ridiculous they all looked. She rinsed off her fingers and filled a cup to the brim with water. With a deep breath, she began to drink.

This is about the sixth draft of chapter one. Out of the 14 chapters I've written, it's gone through the most incarnations, since I needed to set up both the girls' relationship and Maddy's unique storyline. I can't tell you how gleeful I felt when I knew in my heart I'd finally gotten it right.

One interesting thing to note: this wasn't my original opening paragraph. I actually was very very very obsessed with my original opening line, and I wrote the paragraph you read as an exercise in alternate beginnings in the Writing for Children course where the FNC (and this novel) began. I remember distinctly that my professor commented "I rather like this one!" beside my alternate, and I mentally scoffed at the idea of using something other than my "perfect" opening. It took me almost a year (and some subtle nudging from my FNC gals) to realize she was completely right. (Thanks Prof Haertsch!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this Sneak Peek. Check out Sara's and Frankie's Sneak Peeks, and stay tuned for Janine's!


  1. loved it...cant wait to see what happens next

  2. I LOVE IT! It's perfect! I am so proud of you. Can't wait to read the whole thing. :)

  3. LOVE this. Ooh and I want to know what happens next! Is she pregnant!?! I think you've got a great voice, Donna, and you've nailed the dialogue. Well done.

  4. Thanks everyone!

    LiLa - Dialogue is by far my favorite thing to write, especially when all three girls are in the same scene, so I'm so glad you loved it!

  5. Donna, It's wonderful! I think your opening is great. You draw the reader in immediately and make me want to read more about these girls. In just a few short paragraphs, you manage to define the girls' individual personalities and make them very real - and that's not an easy thing to do. After one page, I care about Maddy and what happens to her. I look forward to attending your first book signing!

  6. Looks great, Donna! I'm she pregnant? Can't wait to find out. Renee

  7. Fantastic, Donna! Very gripping, and I agree with the other commenters that you've nailed the dialogue.

    But I'm also a little mad, because now I can't just say I only like "magic-based stories with female protagonists."

  8. Theresa - I'm so excited that you feel that you really get a sense of the girls from that excerpt -- I worked so so hard on that element of it, and to think I might have succeeded is amazing! Thanks for the support!

    Renee - So glad you like it! Maybe since you feed me delicious meals so often I'll give you a little preview of what's to come...

    Geoff - (cue evil cackle) I got you into non-magical fiction! In the words of Frankie - squee! If you want to be a beta reader, I'd love to have you (though I'm sure Frankie keeps you plenty busy...)

  9. OMG Donna with the stealing of my beta reader!!! But you know...Geoff, it's worth the read-very very worth it!

  10. I "rather like [this opening]" as well, Donna. I'd forgotten that you changed it, so initially I was surprised. It sets up the tension right away, and it puts questions in the reader's mind more than the original did, as clever as that one is.

    So fun to revisit our first meeting of June, Maddy, and Nina. You nail their characterization right away. Still LOVE it!

    See you Sunday. : )

  11. So Proud of you Donna!! The characters are so real that I began pairing them with my friends and could literally see me and the girls bantering the same way. Very well done! It left me wanting more!


  12. Donna--great job so far. You've set up the scene perfectly! Cant wait to read more.


  13. Feel free to send it over if you like, Donna! I'd love to see it, though we'll have to see how much insight I'll be able to offer. I'm ( my first initial and last name together) at gmail.


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